The the "hoi polloi" debate

by Mark Israel
     [This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]
Yes, "hoi" means "the" in Greek, but the first 5 citations in the
OED, and the most famous use of this phrase in English (in Gilbert
and Sullivan's operetta Iolanthe), put "the" in front of "hoi".
This is not a unique case:  words like "alchemy", "alcohol",
"algebra", "alligator", and "lacrosse" incorporate articles from
other languages, but can still be prefixed in English with "the".
"The El Alamein battle" (which occurred in Egypt during World War
II), sometimes proffered as a phrase with three articles, actually
contains only two:  alamein is Arabic for "two flags" (which is
appropriate for a town on the border between Egypt and Libya), and
does not contain the Arabic article al.